Monday, November 16, 2020

Ainu Mosir / アイヌモシㇼ - 2020 HIFF Movie Review

The Movie: Ainu Mosir / アイヌモシㇼ

The Director: Takeshi Fukunaga

The Cast: Lily Franky, Kanto Shimokura, Riwka Shimokura, Debo Akibe, Tôko Miura

The Story: A coming of age tale about Kanto, a 14 year old boy, and a descendant of Japan's indigenous Ainu people, who struggles to come to terms with the recent loss of his father.

The Review:
Director Takeshi Fukunaga is originally from the Hokkaido prefecture of Japan which is where this movie is set and is home to many of the Ainu people that are the subject of this movie. Striving for as authentic of a production as possible, he filmed the movie in a small Ainu village and filled his cast with almost 100% Ainu citizens none of whom had any acting experience before working on this movie. The entire production has a very natural feel to it almost to the point where you might think it is a documentary which I felt worked really well for the subject matter.

If you are like me and know absolutely nothing about the Ainu people who are the indigenous people of Japan, then this will be a very eye opening experience as well as an entertaining one as well. At the heart of the story is the young boy Kanto who is not only struggling with the loss of his father but also with wanting to move away so he can leave the traditions and culture behind in favor of a more modern Japanese lifestyle. Another primary figure in the story is Debo, a man who wants to bring back a long lost tradition called Iomante. an Ainu ceremony in which a brown bear is raised for two years then sacrificed. This is the primary struggle of the story as there is a lot of debate between members of the village on whether or not the ritual is appropriate in today's society.

Using this as the story's overall arc allowed the director to show off a lot of the finer details of Ainu culture and daily life from the village shops which sell hand made items, to the tourism aspect that the community so depends on as well as some of the events and celebrations that actually take place over the course of the year. I'm glad that Fukunaga took so much effort in the details and really creating an informative and entertaining document of a people whose language and history have been slowly fading away over time. The story is also a very emotional one and it works in many ways as a cultural drama, a coming of age story, and as a family's struggle with loss and love.

On a side note, you may notice a couple performances from actors out side of the Ainu people I had mentioned before. Lily Franky, who played the father figure in Kore-eda Hirokazu's Shoplifters, is on board as a reporter who visits the village to interview Debo and find out if the rumors of the Iomante ritual are true. Tôko Miura, who has a small role as a teacher in this movie, is a Japanese actress although she might actually be more well known as a singer, most notably working on the soundtrack for Weathering with You as part of the band Radwimps. Both are excellent in the small parts that they play and they add a lot to the production as a whole.

The Verdict:
Ainu Mosir is an impressive effort from director Takeshi Fukunaga that puts a spotlight on how important it is to preserve cultures and languages that are being lost as time passes by.

The Interview:
The TwoOhSix Podcast spoke with director Takeshi Fukunaga about the movie, this year's unique experience with film festivals, getting picked up by Array Releasing, and looking forward to the movie's premiere on Netflix.

To see more reviews, interviews, and festival coverage please go to: TwoOhSix at HIFF 2020

Check out the Podcast!

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